Wednesday, February 19

UPSR proceeds as scheduled


Candidates to resume sitting for exam today, postponement only if API readings exceed 30

A ‘perahu tambang’ operator ferries passengers across the Sarawak River as thick haze blankets Kuching city. — Photos by Muhammad Rais Sanusi

KUCHING: All Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) candidates in Sarawak will resume sitting for their examination today, says Education Department Sarawak director Dr Azhar Ahmad.

He points out that as long as the Air Pollution Index (API) readings do not exceed the 300-mark, indicating hazardous air quality, the exam will go on as scheduled.

“If the API readings breach 300, the department will leave the decision to postpone UPSR to the Ministry of Education,” he told The Borneo Post when contacted yesterday.

An API reading for good air quality is from zero to 50; 51 to 100 is moderate; 101 to 200 is unhealthy; 201 to 300 is very unhealthy, and 300 and above is considered hazardous.

Three women wear face masks to protect against the haze as they stroll along Kuching Waterfront.

A total of 40,448 pupils in Sarawak are sitting for UPSR, which started last Wednesday and continues today with the Mathematics papers.

Azhar pointed out that the state Education Department had distributed 69,000 face masks to 713 schools in Kuching, Samarahan, Sri Aman, Betong, Sarikei, Mukah and Sibu divisions, which are the most affected by the haze.

“We are focusing on UPSR candidates in affected areas that have API readings of 200 and above,” he said.

Workers don face masks as they carry out landscaping duties in Petra Jaya.

He added the department had instructed all district education offices (PPDs) and schools to follow and comply with the standard operating procedures and circulars regarding the ongoing haze situation in Sarawak.

“Basically all schools affected by haze with API readings of 200 and above should be closed.”

However, he noted that the decision to close would be empowered to the schools’ principal or headmaster, based on the latest API reading at 6pm every day.

A scooter rider dons a face mask to protect himself from the polluted air while travelling along Jalan Padungan in Kuching.

“They will inform the PPDs and state Education Department on this decision (to close) on a daily basis.”

Meanwhile, the state Education Department in a statement said parents who are concerned about their children’s health are permitted to let their children take a day off from school during this haze spell.

“However, the school concerned must be informed of their children’s absence,” it said, while citing a circular issued by the Education Ministry on measures to take to ensure the safety and health of students at schools affected critically by haze.

It also advised students to wear nasal masks and drink plenty of water during this period.

As at 6pm yesterday, the air quality for Sri Aman and Kuching remained at a ‘very unhealthy’ level at 248 and 241, respectively.

Four other Department of Environment stations recorded ‘unhealthy’ readings, namely Samarahan at 191, Sarikei (142), Sibu (119) and ILP Miri (105).

On a positive note, the Malaysian Meteorological Department had forecast that several areas in Sarawak, including Kuching and Sri Aman, would have isolated rain in the morning and at night.

Tourists are seen wearing face masks as they walk by the iconic Kuching cat statue at Jalan Padungan.